Gold Baton Award

Given annually for distinguished service to America’s orchestras, the Gold Baton is the League’s highest honor. Since 1948, the Gold Baton has recognized individuals and institutions whose far-reaching contributions to the field serve to champion and advance the cause of orchestras and symphonic music throughout the country.

Previous Awardees

Deborah Borda, for decades of extraordinary vision and leadership in cities coast to coast and for inspiring the entire orchestra field for enriching America’s orchestras with extraordinary compositions, vigorous advocacy of new music, generous and inspiring mentorship of young composers, and exemplary musical citizenship. 

Jesse Rosen, for decades of thoughtful and devoted leadership to the orchestral field, its music, and its people, including as CEO of the League from 2008 to 2020.

Thomas Wilkins, an inspirational leader of American orchestras, a committed champion of diverse voices, a brilliant educator, and an extraordinary citizen of the world.

Award postponed until 2022.

New Music USA, for fostering, since 1939, a thriving, interconnected new music community through deep reaching program initiatives, exemplary journalism, and unparalleled support of creative artists and their work.

American Composers Forum (ACF), for cultivating, a vibrant ecosystem of music creators, performers, advocates, and new music listeners.

Joan Tower, for enriching America’s orchestras with extraordinary compositions, vigorous advocacy of new music, generous and inspiring mentorship of young composers, and exemplary musical citizenship. 

Yo-Yo Ma, cellist, awarded the Gold Baton for his role as our foremost musical citizen: demonstrating extraordinary artistry, expanding repertoire, nurturing young talent, and inspiring generations of citizen artists to use their gifts to transform lives and forge a more humane world

Ann Hobson Pilot, former principal harpist, Boston Symphony Orchestra, for extraordinary artistry and trailblazing leadership on and off the stage

Kris Sinclair, executive director, Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO), for three decades of exemplary orchestra advocacy and leadership.

Anne-Marie Soullière, retired president, Fidelity Foundation, awarded the Gold Baton for her lifetime of passionate support for music, enlightened leadership of the Fidelity Foundation, and wise, sympathetic counsel to numerous musical leaders.

Wayne S. Brown, Director of Music and Opera for the National Endowment for the Arts for almost 17 years, and currently President and CEO of the Michigan Opera Theatre, awarded the Gold Baton and honored as a steadfast friend to orchestras nationwide, a fearless advocate, and a cherished advisor to countless colleagues.

Don Randel, president emeritus, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, awarded the Gold Baton for distinguished scholarly work, enlightened leadership of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and unwavering lifelong devotion to orchestras, upon his retirement.

Volunteer Council of the League of American Orchestras,  awarded the Gold Baton for 50 years of strengthening orchestras by championing the invaluable work of America’s orchestra volunteers.

Helen J. DeVos

Fred Zenone
American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio

We recognize Ford Motor Company Fund for its extraordinary support of and commitment to Ford Made in America, a grassroots initiative that led to the formation of he largest orchestra commissioning consortium in American history and brought the vibrant energy of new orchestral music to communities in all 50 states.

We also recognize the Nation’s Smaller-Budget Orchestras for their vision and leadership in creating Ford Made in America, which inspired America’s orchestras to collaborate in commissioning extraordinary new works by composers Joan Tower and Joseph Schwantner. With performances of Tower’s Made in America and Schwantner’s Chasing Light… in all 50 states, these orchestras have engaged audiences, sparked interest in, and connected their communities to new music.

Henry Fogel, former president and CEO of the League, and  current dean and distinguished professor of the arts at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. 

America’s youth orchestras, for the critical role they play in sustaining arts education, and for continually developing the musicians, audience members, and orchestra supporters of tomorrow. (The Gold Baton was accepted by Louis Scaglione, Chairman, League of American Orchestras Youth Orchestra Division, on behalf of America’s youth orchestras.)

Kenneth Schermerhorn, Whose vibrant musical leadership of the New Jersey, Milwaukee, and Nashville Symphony Orchestras inspired extraordinary artistic quality and established their national stature

John Williams, Composer and conductor, whose orchestral music for film, television and concert hall is an indelible part of America’s cultural fabric, inspiring millions of listeners worldwide 

Leonard Slatkin, Whose imaginative musical leadership has served America’s orchestras, composers and young conductors with unparalleled vision and passion

The National Arts Caucus, For steadfast leadership, advocacy, and unfailing commitment to national policies that improve access to the arts for all Americans

Walter Anderson, Whose leadership as artist, educator, and visionary compelled us to consider endless possibilities

Seymour Rosen, Musician, Manager, Presenter, Educator, Mentor.  For serving music and orchestras with vision, passion, integrity, and courage

Michael Tilson Thomas, Consummate musical leader: setting new standards, crossing boundaries, embracing all listeners

Gordon Getty, Visionary patron of orchestras large and small and peerless philanthropic leader

Paul R. Judy, (Symphony Orchestra Institute)

Adolph Herseth, Principal trumpet, CSO (1948-2001; principal trumpet emeritus 2001-)

Pierre Boulez, Composer, Conductor, Teacher, and Lifelong Pioneer for Orchestras and Their Music 

Peter Pastreich, who brought intelligence, imagination, and intense dedication to the leadership of individual orchestras and to the community of orchestras throughout a brilliant career

Ernest Fleischmann, musician, leader, impresario – whose vision inspires orchestras around the world 

Catherine French, friend and advocate, whose distinguished leadership of the American Symphony Orchestra League strengthened orchestras everywhere

Audrey Baird, First lady of volunteer ticket sales, whose unmatched skills and irresistible enthusiasm have multiplied audiences for orchestras everywhere

Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for a generation of access to high quality concert broadcasts and cultural news that has fostered a climate of public support for America’s symphony orchestras

Josef Gingold, Soloist, Orchestra Violinist, Concertmaster, Professor of Violin, who by his inspiration and example has enriched orchestras everywhere.

New York Philharmonic, in celebration of its 150 years of artistic excellence, leadership and service

Meet the Composer

Robert Ward

Carnegie Hall, for one hundred years of celebrating America’s orchestras and the music they play

Ralph Black (posthumous) 

Robert Shaw

Isaac Stern, Musician, Humanitarian, and Guardian of the Arts

Betty Freeman, patron of new music, for distinguished service to America’s music

Margaret Lee Crofts, Paul Fromm, and Francis Goelet, patrons of new music, for distinguished service to America’s music

William Schuman, Composer, Educator, Leader, ever distinguished by his music and a life dedicated to his art

Danny Newman, arts consultant, whose enthusiasm for subscription has helped orchestras bring their music to millions of listeners in the United States and Canada

Merrill Lynch, securities and investment banking firm, for making a sound investment in American symphony orchestras

Morton Gould, Composer, conductor, and friend whose music enriches the lives of millions and helps build our American musical heritage

The Honorable Sidney R. Yates, U.S. Congressman from Illinois, whose dedicated leadership in Congress has helped build and preserve the Federal government’s commitment to the arts

Maurice Abravanel, Music Director Laureate of the Utah Symphony, orchestra builder, orchestra advocate – for a lifetime of singular devotion to the advancement of all orchestras

Beverly Sills, for her cultivation and captivation of new audiences for the arts for over 30 years

The Minnesota Five Percent Club, for setting a standard of excellence among businesses in support of the arts

Eugene Ormandy, Conductor Laureate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, for setting a standard of excellence for nearly half a century

The Bell System, for bringing fine concert performances to millions of Americans through the American Orchestras on Tour program

Aaron Copland, Composer and conductor, a musician sensitive to the sounds of America

Exxon Corporation, for outstanding leadership and vision in support of the arts, especially the Exxon/Arts Endowment Conductors Program

Avery Fisher, Friends of Music, Musicians, and Music lovers

Alcoa Foundation, for the distinguished television series “Previn and the Pittsburgh”

Arthur Fiedler, Musician, Conductor, Friend, who has enriched all our lives as Ambassador of Music to America

John S. Edwards, Manager of the Chicago Symphony, for 40 distinguished years of leadership to symphony orchestras.  A Patron of the Arts.  A Man for All Seasons

Nancy Hanks and the National Council on the Arts, who have opened the doors to the Golden Age in music and the arts in America

Danny Kaye, who waves a magic wand over the symphony orchestras of America and turns them into happier, healthier organizations

Amyas Ames, a true citizen-soldier in the tradition of Cincinnatus, he has rallied the hopes of all musical organizations through the Partnership of the Arts

Martha Baird Rockefeller, for a lifetime of generous support of the world of symphony orchestras which she underscored in her final bequests

Helen M. Thompson, for leadership and guidance of the American Symphony Orchestra League from a small organization to the most representative professional group in the performing arts field in the United States

The New York State Council on the Arts, for successfully encouraging local participation in the support of the arts and for increased state financial support of the arts

Leopold Stokowski, for the imaginative leadership he has given to symphony orchestra development in America, and his initiation and direction of the American Symphony Orchestra’s program of study and career opportunities for young conductors and orchestra players

Mrs. Jouett Shouse, for her cultural leadership and gifts of lands and facilities for the establishment of the Filene Center and the Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts, America’s first National Park devoted to the performing arts

American Telephone & Telegraph Company, in recognition of its exploration of the world of music through the televised Bell Telephone Hour documentaries

The Ford Foundation, in recognition of its development of the Endowment Program for symphony orchestras

American Federation of Musicians, in recognition of its development and sponsorship of the String Congress

Dr. Richard Lert, Music Director, Pasadena Symphony, for his extensive work in training, teaching and coaching young musicians and conductors

Paul Mellon, A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trusts, Richard King Mellon Charitable Trust, Howard Heinz Endowment, for setting up an endowment for the Pittsburgh Symphony

John D. Rockefeller, III, for his leadership in establishing Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Officers and Directors of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

The Women’s Associations of Symphony Orchestras in the in the United States and Canada, for their extensive work in support of symphony orchestras

Arthur Judson, former manager, New York Philharmonic, for his many years of pioneer work on behalf of arts organizations throughout the nation

Charles Farnsley, former Mayor Louisville, for development of the Commissioning Project of the Louisville Orchestra

Association of Junior Leagues of America, for their extensive and valuable work on behalf of arts organizations throughout the United States and Canada

Leonard Bernstein, conductor, New York Philharmonic, for his televised concerts for young people

The Study Committee on Orchestra Legal Documents: Samuel Rosenbaum, Henry B. Cabot, Dudley T. Easby, Jr., Charles Garside, and Henry Allen Moe

Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post, Vice President of the Washington National Symphony, for her unique series of youth concerts in Washington, D.C., “Music for Young America”

John B. Ford, President of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, for his development of a unique program of corporate support for orchestras

Ernest La Prade, for promotion of symphony orchestras through the NBC “Orchestras of the Nations” radio program

Banner: Joan Tower and Tania León in discussion at the 74th National Conference in Nashville, where Tower was presented with the 2019 Gold Baton. Photo credit: Alan Poizner

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